Gray Divorce: The Question of Alimony

I was recently interviewed for an article written by Caryn Brooks for Reuters. The article, titled “Gray Divorce: The Question of Alimony” seeks to understand what if any difference there might be in decision-making regarding Alimony and Spousal Support in Gray Divorces.

Gray Divorce refers loosely to the dissolution of marriages when the parties are over the age of 55. I make no judgments as to whether a certain age makes a divorcee old. I do however believe there are many financial complications and intricacies to the dissolution of marriage at a later stage in life. I will review many of these issues, concerns and questions in detail over coming months in my Gray Divorce series.

The Reuters article quotes a Massachusetts attorney, Garbrielle Clemens, who shared the story of two of her clients “forgoing alimony in order to front-load money in case their ex-spouse can’t come up with the payments down the line”. Click on the link above to learn a little about my opinion regarding the front loading and/or buy-out of Spousal Support in long term marriages ending in Gray Divorce as well as some practical thoughts when considering it as an option.



The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – What does healthcare reform mean for Divorce?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on Tuesday, March 23, 2010. The complete details are not yet known as many of the provisions require sweeping overhauls to the way medical insurance has been sold and administered in the United States. As is common in bills of such a large magnitude affecting such a vast cross section of the American Public, this legislation will be enacted over a period of years beginning in June of 2010 and culminating with the final legislated change to take effect in 2018. Following is a summary of what I believe, at first glance, to be the most important portions of the reform for Family Law practitioners.

Immediate Access to Insurance for Uninsured Individuals with a Pre-Existing Condition.  This provision provides eligible individuals access to coverage that does not impose exclusions for pre-existing health conditions. In the past, pre-existing medical conditions, whether serious or minor, may have precluded an individual from obtaining medical insurance on the open market. Long term legal separations, delayed divorces and other creative solutions were used by negotiators in situations where an un-employed spouse had pre-existing health concerns. This reform will become effective June 30, 2010 and should provide long term solutions for your clients. Coverage under this program will continue until new exchanges are operational in 2014. The exchanges may even offer more affordable coverage than the COBRA continuation insurance many newly divorced and unemployed individuals opt for today. This new venue will enable comparison shopping for standardized health packages, facilitate enrollment and administer tax credits to make coverage affordable for all income levels.

Extending Dependent Coverage. Young adults age 19 through 29 are the largest growing age group in the country at risk of being uninsured. The growing population of un-employed or under-employed young adults has many of them landing back at home after college. Parents are increasingly making planning for the expenses of their able bodied adult children part of their divorce negotiations. Current medical policies provide dependent care for children until they are 19, or 23 if a full-time student. Purchasing catastrophic or high-deductible medical insurance for the kids has become a common risk management solution for parents to insure against major loss if their child should be in an accident or need expensive medical care. The problem remains the relatively high cost and relatively small number of options. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will require any group health plan or plan in the individual market that provides dependent coverage for children to continue to make that coverage available until the child turns 26 years of age. This takes effect for plan years beginning on or after September 30, 2010 and should allow parents to more effectively arrange for sharing the costs of co-parenting their adult children.

There are many other important and far reaching provisions beyond the scope of my writing. The complete 2,409 page text is available at

So how are we going to pay for it? Tax increases. The upper middle class and wealthy will be footing the bill for much of the increased taxation. An increase in the hospital insurance tax rate (commonly referred to as Medicare payroll tax) and an additional tax on investment income will take effect in 2013. The Medicare payroll tax will increase from 1.45% to 2.35% and a “Medicare contribution tax” of 3.8 percent will be levied on net investment income (e.g., dividends, capital gains, rents, passive income) for taxpayers with Adjusted Gross Income greater than $200,000 ($250,000 for joint returns).

Increased access to affordable coverage should provide flexibility in divorce settings, reduce the use of risky long term planning scenarios and possibly remove expensive COBRA continuation coverage from our lexicon.  Like any significant income tax changes, those included in the reform will require changes to support guideline calculations and a base-line understanding of how those changes will affect individuals and families navigating divorce. We will learn more as provisions go into effect in the coming years.


Social Security, Retirement Benefits, and Divorce

Social Security, Retirement Benefits, and Divorce

Social Security in the United States refers directly to a lesser known federal Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program or OASDI. The program was originally rolled out in the 1930’s in an attempt to limit what were seen as dangers to the American way of life such as increased life expectancy, poverty, and fatherless children. So the Social Security Act, signed in 1935, created social insurance programs to provide benefits to retirees, the unemployed, and as well as a lump sum benefit to the family at death. Many amendments have been made since the original Social Security Act of 1935. Most importantly; Medicare was added in 1965. The Social Security Act of 1965 also recognized for the first time that divorce was becoming a common cause for the end of marriages and added divorcees to the beneficiary list.

When Can I Collect Benefits?

The earliest age at which reduced benefits are payable is 62. The age at which full retirement benefits are available is dependent upon the taxpayers age. An increase of regular retirement age was enacted to reduce the amount of benefits payable. For those currently over age 70 the normal age was 65. Anyone born after will fall somewhere on increasing scale which climbs incrementally to age 67 depending upon birth date. Anyone born after 1960 must reach age 67 for normal retirement benefits. Delaying receipt of benefits will increase a taxpayer’s benefit until age 70.

As A Divorced Spouse What Do I Get?

Divorced spouses are eligible for benefits equal to one half of the worker’s benefit if they were married for 10 years have not remarried and are at least 62 years old. This is called a derivative benefit. A spousal applicant must wait until the worker has reached retirement age, 62, in order to apply for benefits. The worker is not required to have applied for benefits in order for the ex-spouse to apply for spousal benefits. They are not entitled to increases for benefits taken after normal retirement age. If a worker has died and the ex-spouse has reached full retirement age they can receive 100% of the worker’s benefit as survivor benefits.

If an applicant is between age 62 and their normal retirement age; the application for benefits will be based on the applicant’s earnings record. If one half of an ex-spouse’s benefit is greater than the applicant’s benefit on their own record; the applicant can choose to take whichever is greater. If you wait until your normal retirement age and file for spousal benefits you can continue to accrue benefits and enhancements for delaying your own retirement up until your age 70.

An ex-spouse’s receipt of derivative benefits on the worker’s record does not reduce the worker’s benefits. It is even possible for more than one ex-spouse to collect on the worker’s derivative benefits. This could lead to as much as 500% of the original benefit being claimed by the five ex-spouses.

Justin A. Reckers CFP®, CDFA™, AIF®


Our firm does not provide legal or tax advice. Be sure to consult with your own tax and legal advisors before taking any action that would have tax consequences. The information provided herein is obtained from sources believed to be reliable; but no representation or warranty is made as to its accuracy or completeness.

Life After Divorce: Beneficiary Designations

Have You Changed all Your Beneficiary Designations?

In January 2009; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (Kennedy v. DuPont Plan Administrator) against a woman suing her late father’s pension plan for money her mother received, even thought the mother had forfeited her rights to the pension in their 1994 divorce. The Supreme Court determined the beneficiary designation form and the procedures set under the plan were sole determinants of benefit distribution.

Employers are required to pay benefits as stated in the original beneficiary designation form, in spite of a divorce decree.

It is important for all divorcing individuals to revisit their estate planning, including beneficiary designations, wills and trusts.  Changes must be made to retirement plans in accordance with the rules set forth by respective employers.  Otherwise, children and/or new spouses may not be eligible to receive benefits.

Remember the following points: Read more